Samoa on Wednesday took advantage of World Rugby’s new eligibility rules by including former All Blacks Steven Luatua and Jeff Toomaga-Allen in their squad to tour Europe next month.
The pair were among eight players uncapped by Samoa in coach Seilala Mapusua’s 31-strong group for Tests against Italy, Georgia and Romania — their first northern hemisphere tour since 2019 ahead of next year’s World Cup in France.
Luatua, 31, played 15 Tests for New Zealand up until his shift from the Auckland Blues to Bristol, where he has gone on to be labelled among the best back row forwards in the English Premiership.
Ulster prop Toomaga-Allen’s lone Test came in 2013 before his move to Europe.
Both New Zealand-born players have expressed a desire to play for Samoa because of their family heritage and are eligible to do so under laws introduced this year.
Players can now represent a second nation if they serve a three-year international absence and were either born in the second country or have a parent or grandparent born there.
Tonga exploited the rule to field a handful of former tier one Test players at the Pacific Nations Cup tournament in June-July, including ex-Wallabies fullback Israel Folau.
Samoa were unbeaten in the Pacific Nations Cup in July against Fiji, Tonga and Australia A.
Samoa face England, Japan, Argentina and Chile in the pool stage when the World Cup begins in September 2023.
Samoa squad:Backs: Tomasi Alosio, Des Sepulona, Tumua Manu, Joe Perez, Duncan Paia’aua, Alapati Leiua, Nigel Ah Wong, Danny Toala, Stacey Ili, Ulupano Seuteni, Rodney Iona, D’Angelo Leuila, Ere Enari, Jonathan Taumateine.
Forwards: Fritz Lee, Talalelei Gray, Afaesetiti Amosa, Jordan Taufua, Steven Luatua, Taleni Seu, Theo McFarland, Brian Alainu’uese, Chris Vui, Michael Ala’alatoa, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Donald Brighouse, Nephi Leatigaga, Jordan Lay, Seilala Lam, Manu Leiataua, Luteru Toloi.